ICT

Inside the Google Teacher Academy 2011

googleteacheracademy

On April 20 last week fifty-four educators, invited from around the world, arrived at Google’s Sydney offices like children before a birthday party – full of anticipation and excitement at the prospect of attending only the second Google Teacher Academy (GTA) held outside the United States. I was fortunate to be among them.  A talented team of “lead learners” lead by Mark Wagner awaited us.

Before the event we were advised by previous attendees to “get plenty of sleep” and prepare for a “fire hose dosing of information”. It wasn’t long before the soundness of that advice was proved.  A series of fast-paced Google brain-dumps covered so much information so quickly that by early afternoon, when Google’s Dana Nguyen observed that “Google people talk quickly”, it was already old news. As we struggled to take it all in Dana reassured us that it is not necessary to store information in your head if you know where to find it when you need it. Given the limited capacity of my head, that was advice I appreciated.

Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, so it’s hardly surprising that most of the material covered at GTA Sydney is freely available online. I’ve included links to that information, broken up into more easily digested pieces, in this post.  If you have the time to explore these links you’ll find a wealth of information to fuel educational possibilities inside and outside the classroom.

Some sessions were run by graduates of previous Google Teacher Academies.  These were all skilled presenters with a deep understanding of and a passion for the benefits of Google technology in education.  The relevant links are shown below:

The sessions were run by Google Certified Teachers (GCTs) from previous years – each an expert in their field – along with Dr Mark Wagner from CUE and Dana Nguyen from Google.  We were also privileged to be given presentations by other Google personnel and were even given a tour of Google’s Sydney offices.The sessions were run by Google Certified Teachers (GCTs) from previous years – each an expert with a passion for the benefits of Google technology in education.

Google Search by Lisa Thumann

Google Apps for Education by Kern Kelly

Google Docs by Wendy Gorton

Google Sites by Lisa Thumann

Google Calendar by Danny Silva

Maps and Google Earth by Wendy Gorton

Gmail and Google Talk by Danny Silva

Google Apps Administration by Kern Kelly

Research Tools by Mark Wagner

Other sessions were run by Google personnel – each one an impressive evangelists for Google technology.  They even revealed some confidential information on current Google projects and future plans.  This information confirmed the remarkable speed of innovation at Google.  Links to their topics are shown below (excludes NDA content):

Google Apps New Features (and Blogger) by Anil Sabharwal

Google Mobile by David Loxton

Google Apps for Education Training Programs by Dana Nguyen

We also heard from six fellow participants who had volunteered prior to the event to present “Inspiring Ideas”.  Here are their Google presentations.

The Spread of Google Spreadsheets by Pat Wagner

Using sites for student e-portolios by Joe Donahue

Creating an augmented reality school tour by  Chris Betcher

e-portfolios using Blogger and Google Apps by Rob Clarke

Minimally invasive education by Tara Taylor-Jorgensen

The dog ate my homework by Dorothy Burt

Before the event I considered myself well informed about Google tools – especially the ones I used regularly like Search, Docs, Sites, Calendar and Gmail – but over the course of the day I was introduced to many useful  new features and to recent innovations that I knew little or nothing about.  One of my “Aha!” moments occurred when Kern Kelly illustrated the power of Google lookup functions in Google Spreadsheets.  The ability to pull down information from the Web and put it into a spreadsheet was a revelation to me.

Without doubt my greatest highlight of GTA Sydney was meeting amazing educators from around the world. The opportunity to network with these talented people in the year ahead is a privilege that I’m determined not to waste. Other GTA highlights included a tour of the Google offices, the opportunity explore CR-48 Chrome netbooks and Android mobile devices like the Motorola Xoom.

If I have a criticism of the event, it would be that it was too short.  It would have been even better if we had had more time and opportunity to explore the educational opportunities Google’s amazing tools make possible while we were still together in Sydney.  The following half-day “un-conference” provided some opportunity for this, but longer would have been better.

Many GCTs have blogged about their experience at GTA Sydney.  Here are the posts that I’m aware of: Glenda BakerCorrie BarclayChris BetcherChris Christodoulou, Penny Collins, Tania CouttsKelly Jordan, Glenda MorrisMike ReadingTania ShekoTara Taylor-Jorgensen.

UPDATE: An Ed Tech Crew podcast with interviews from GTA Sydney by Tony Richards can be found here.

ICT, Social Education and General Studies

Connectivism in action – demonstrated by a five year old

Connectivism in action – demonstrated by a five year old
Yesterday my five year old daughter did something that started me thinking about Connectivism, a theory of learning based on the premise that knowledge exists in the world rather than in the head of an individual.  It’s a theory that takes into account the effect technology has had on how people live, communicate, and learn.
My daughter wanted to buy our dog Sooty a dog bed like her friend’s dog Tiki.  I said that first I’d need to see whether the bed offered value for money.
“Do you know where to buy it?” I asked.
“Yes. It’s at Pet Stock,” she said.
“Ok,” I said. “We can ask them the price when we go to town tomorrow.”
“I can check it now,” she said. “There’s a Pet Stock website.”
She quickly googled “pet stock”, found the website, found the item and found the price.
I was struck by the fact that her immediate inclination was to search for the answer online, whereas mine was to wait until I could walk into a store and ask someone a question. Along the way she also learned that ‘canine’ refers to dogs, ‘feline’ to cats and ‘equine’ to horses (See website image below).  Her learning happened without talking or communicating with another person.  The answer to her question – along with other interesting information – was retrieved through a simple Google search followed by the successful navigation of a website.
Her behaviour reminded me of the suggestion made by Will Richardson of PLPConnectU that 21st century schools need to concentrate on teaching students know-how of the know-where kind rather than the know-what kind.  There’s simply too much knowledge in the world to cram into our heads, but if we know where to access it, we can find it when we need it.
The development of writing, Gutenberg’s printing press, and now computer technologies have brought about major knowledge revolutions in human history.  Today, the greatest repositories of knowledge are digital, and many of these repositories are accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
Unfortunately, at $79.95, we decided the dog bed was a bit expensive, so Sooty is still sleeping on his old cushion.

Yesterday my five year old daughter did something that started me thinking about Connectivism, a theory of learning based on the premise that knowledge exists in the world rather than in the head of an individual.  It’s a theory that takes into account the effect technology has had on how people live, communicate, and learn.

My daughter wanted to buy our dog Sooty a dog bed like her friend’s dog Tiki.  I said that first I’d need to see whether the bed offered value for money.

“Do you know where to buy it?” I asked.

“Yes. It’s at Pet Stock,” she said.

“Ok,” I said. “We can ask them the price when we go to town tomorrow.”

“I can check it now,” she said. “There’s a Pet Stock website.”

She quickly googled “pet stock”, found the website, found the item and found the price.

I was struck by the fact that her immediate inclination was to search for the answer online, whereas mine was to wait until I could walk into a store and ask someone a question. Along the way she also learned that ‘canine’ refers to dogs, ‘feline’ to cats and ‘equine’ to horses (See website image below).  Her learning happened without talking or communicating with another person.  The answer to her question – along with other interesting information – was retrieved through a simple Google search followed by the successful navigation of a website.

PetSTock

Her behaviour reminded me of the suggestion made by Will Richardson of PLPnetwork that 21st century schools need to concentrate on teaching students know-how of the know-where kind rather than the know-what kind.  There’s simply too much knowledge in the world to cram into our heads, but if we know where to access it, we can find it when we need it.

The development of writing, Gutenberg’s printing press, and now computer technologies have brought about major knowledge revolutions in human history.  Today, the greatest repositories of knowledge are digital, and many of these repositories are accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

Unfortunately, at $79.95, we decided the dog bed was a bit expensive, so Sooty is still sleeping on his old cushion.

ICT, Social Education and General Studies, Social Networking

Not enough time? Blame Facebook! No, Twitter!

“Real Life”. I don’t like weeding the garden!
The power of ICT brings so many new possibilities to our lives that it can be difficult to choose which ones to pursue and which ones to ignore.  There’s simply not enough time to do all that we might want to do.
The miriad of possibilities created by ICT also bring into focus the distinction between “life online” and “life offline”.  “Real Life” or “RL” is used, sometimes ironically, to refer to life “in the real world” as opposed to “life on the Internet”.  This distinction makes sense to us because “life online” is a relatively new experience.  But for children and future generations with no experience of the world before Twitter and Facebook, the disctinction, if it lasts, may seem quaint.  More and more peole are forming close friendships with people they never meet “offline”.  More and more people are beginning relationships from a distance “online” that end in physical intimacy “offline”.  At a recent DEECD PD (PLP ConnectU) Will Richardson urged teachers to tell their students, “DO talk to strangers.” He said that he’d never met in person most of his best teachers.  That’s something I’ve only recently come to appreciate.
“You spend too much time on the computer,” is a valid criticism for husbands or wives who spend too long on Facebook or Twitter.  It’s certainly an offense I commit all too frequently. But it’s not because I’m ignoring “Real Life”.  Twitter has become part of my real life – but it can play havoc with my time management, just like a good book.  Facebook and Twitter, seductive as they are, must be balanced with many other real life commitments. There’s nothing more wonderful for me than time spent with my family.  That’s an easy “offline” activity, but it happens “online” too.  I don’t like weeding the garden.  That’s strictly “offline”, but I’ve still got to do it.

Do you ever get the feeling that there’s just not enough time to do all the things you “need” to do?

Social networking through sites like Facebook and Twitter is seductive. Online social networking may be one of the most profound sociological developments of the twenty first century – but it can also be a terrible waste of time! In an already busy world it has made our lives even busier!  ICT brings with it so many possibilities that it can be difficult to choose what to pursue and what to ignore.  There’s simply not enough time to do all that we want to do because we are spoilt for choice!

This miriad of possibilities also brings into focus the distinction between “life online” and “life offline”.  The term “In Real Life” or “IRL” is used, sometimes ironically, to refer to life “in the real world” as opposed to “life on the Internet”.  This distinction makes sense to us because “life online” is a relatively new experience.  But for children and future generations with no experience of the world before Twitter and Facebook, the disctinction, if it lasts, may seem a little quaint.  More and more people form close friendships with people they never meet “offline”.  More and more people begin relationships from a distance “online” that end in physical intimacy “offline”.  At a recent DEECD PD session (PLP ConnectU) Will Richardson urged teachers to tell their students, “DO talk to strangers.” (Safely, of course!) He said that most of his best teachers were people he’d never met.

“You spend too much time on Twitter,” is a fair criticism for many of us.  But it’s not because we’re ignoring “Real Life”. Twitter has become part of my real life – but it can play havoc with my time management, just like a good book. More importantly – even more than a good book – Twitter and all kinds of other ICT tools create entirely new and powerful possibilities that I never had before. That’s what makes them so exciting.  Gutenberg helped change the world. It’s now the turn of a five year old – Twitter.  Here’s some interesting writing on the topic:

Dismissed as a joke, Twitter revolutionises the way we communicate

Social Media Revolution

Short History of Twitter from Gutenberg

Is social media Gutenberg or Guttenberg? It’s actually both

Of course Facebook and Twitter, powerful and seductive as they are, must be balanced with our many other real life priorities.

There’s nothing more wonderful for me than time spent with my family.  That’s an easy “offline” activity, but it happens “online” too.

I don’t like weeding the garden.  That’s strictly “offline”, but I’ve still got to do it.